Haiku and Review: Widows

Ocean’s Eight with heft?
No, not even close. This is
thrilling, risky art.

Widows may be the most complete film of 2018: imbued with morally significant themes and yet breathtakingly entertaining. Writing, acting, directing, cinematography — there’s so much talent packed into this movie, and like the four women in front and center, everyone does their job to the fullest degree. Lean and mean, it just clicks.

All I knew going in was that a bunch of male criminals died and left their widows with a serious money problem. That’s all you need to know, too. Talk about female empowerment done right — Widows showcases this better than any film I’ve seen in a long while.

It is a shame that Viola Davis was left off the Best Leading Actress Oscar race, because she absolutely belongs. She’s got her big scenes, but it’s the subtle ones where she truly shines.

Haiku and Review: First Reformed

a man of God, lost
finding purpose in darkness
and bliss in a cup

The film begins with a perfectly centered shot of a church at dawn, the camera slowly pushing in as the sky lightens.

Within ten seconds, you know you’re in the hands of a pro, and the pro here is Paul Schrader.

In a way, this movie is reminiscent of one of Schrader’s earlier works, Taxi Driver, which he wrote.  I’m not usually a fan of voiceovers, but I make my exceptions with Schrader and Terrence Malick, because these aren’t really voiceovers per se.  Voiceovers can easily become a crutch in a film, the laziest way to info-dump, but in this movie, it serves to build character more than anything else.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to watch this movie with as little information as possible.  All I knew was that Ethan Hawke plays a priest (turns out to be a minister) who’s lost his way.  That’s all you need to know.

First Reformed is a work of art.  I think that’s the highest praise you can accord a film, and this movie deserves every bit.  Taxi Driver is a movie written by a young man; it possesses that raw, unbridled energy.  First Reformed is a movie written and directed by an older, wiser man, and it’s full of grace and beauty.  Best movie I’ve seen this year so far, hands down.

11/2/2018 7:30pm: The Washing Society/Loads of Prose

Attention, friends and strangers who happen to live in the vicinity of NYC!  I’ll be at the Anthology Film Archives on Friday, 11/2 at 7:30pm, to take in the screening of the film The Washing Society and afterwards, I’ll be doing a reading in support of Emily Rubin‘s Loads of Prose.  My story is titled “The Best of the Vest,” and if you want to know what it’s about, come on by!

Here’s a trailer for the movie.

The Washing Society (trailer) by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs – 2018 from Lynne Sachs on Vimeo.

And here’s all the info you need for the event.

THE WASHING SOCIETY/LOADS OF PROSE
Screenings and Readings
Thursday and Friday November 1, 2 at 7:30

ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
32 2nd Ave NYC NY 10003
212-505-5181
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org

The Washing Society
by Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs
2018, 45 min, digital

Film Notes

SPECIAL SCREENINGS: ARTISTS & SPECIAL GUESTS IN PERSON!

Featuring laundry workers Wing Ho, Lula Holloway, and Margarita Lopez, and actors Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, and Veraalba Santa.

THE WASHING SOCIETY brings us into New York City laundromats and reveals the experiences of the people working there. Filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker collaborate to observe and investigate the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat, and the continual labor that happens there. The intersection of history, immigration, and underpaid work is woven into the film’s observational moments and interviews, along with the uniquely public/private exchange of dirt, lint, stains, and money. The juxtaposition of narrative and documentary elements creates a dream-like, yet hyper-real portrayal of a day in the life of a laundry worker, both past and present.

Screening with:
Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs DESPERTAR: NYC LAUNDRY WORKERS RISE UP (2018, 5 min, digital)

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Thurs, Nov 1:
Historian Tera Hunter, whose book TO ‘JOY MY FREEDOM depicts the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses in Atlanta, and Mahoma Lopez and Rosanna Rodriguez (Co-Directors, Laundry Workers Center), will join us to discuss justice in the workplace.

Fri, Nov 2:
‘Loads of Prose,’ a reading series staged in laundromats, presents authors Emily Rubin (STALINA, 2011), Sung J Woo (LOVE LOVE 2015, EVERYTHING ASIAN, 2009), and Christine Lewis (Organizer, Domestic Workers United), who will read their stories of hidden labor and the challenges of our changing neighborhoods, where infrastructures are crumbling due to the visceral and economic demands of gentrification.

And here’s a bit of lovely trivia — I watched the film Private Life this afternoon, written and directed by the always wonderful Tamara Jenkins.  It’s currently playing on Netflix, and how cool is it that the Anthology Film Archives is featured in the film!  Check out the screencap.

Private Life (2018)

Haiku and Review: Crazy Rich Asians

 

Ship on three towers

Asian leads in a rom-com

Wedding on water

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good rom-com — for the uninitiated, that’s shorthand for romantic comedy.  Some of my favorites are Bridget Jones, Notting Hill, The Proposal, and the grandmommy of them all, Roman Holiday.  And in retrospect, that oldie is what Crazy Rich Asians reminds me of most, because at the core of it, this is a story of a commoner falling in love with royalty.  Nick Young may not be the prince of Singapore, but he’s the closest thing, and this is an extremely well-made fish-out-of-water story of Rachel Wu’s plight.  Much of the humor is supplied by her best friend Peik Lin, portrayed by the half Chinese, half Korean, entirely American and hilarious Awkwafina (with some choice assists from Ken Jeong playing her dad).

I don’t want to spoil a single thing, so I would just urge you to go see this in the theater.  It’s funny, heart-lifting, heart-rending, heart-everything.  I can’t believe there was a time when Michelle Yeoh was considered only an action star.  She’s so, so good here, her acting largely reserved, her reactions mostly minute — and yet she’s a gigantic presence.  The poster may be featuring the leads, but it’s Yeoh who’s the center of this film, and deservedly so.  Brava!

p.s. Yes, of course it’s a big deal that this is the first movie since The Joy Luck Club to feature an all-Asian cast.  But this film is so much more than a cultural signifier — it’s first and foremost a fine work of cinema.  So on that merit alone, it should be seen.  Though it absolutely bears mentioning that it took guts and sacrifices to put this up on the big screen — worth a read and then some: The Stakes Are High for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ — And That’s the Point